A girl aged 14 has been abducted, raped and forced into an Islamic marriage in Pakistan. Her father was shot dead when he sold his house in an attempt to buy her freedom.
Mehwish Masih, who left school early because her family could no longer afford the fees, was hired as a part-time cleaner at a house in Faisalabad, according to the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA).
She was asked to stay late to help at a party in March, and did not return the next day. Her parents soon afterwards received a copy of her Islamic marriage certificate in the post.
Her father Tanveer Masih, a rickshaw driver, sold his home in the Faisalabad slum of Khalid Colony to pay for a lawyer who managed to get the abduction registered as a crime. He was asked by relatives of his daughter’s new husband to drop the case and when he attended a rendezvous he was murdered by two unknown gunmen.
Mehwish’s mother Najma Bibi said: “The police have not done anything substantial to help my daughter, we now have no money to defend our rights and without my husband we have no voice. We live in a hopeless situation, we need help. I pray that my daughter will continue to place her hope in Christ.”
Kanwal Amar of the BPCA, which is trying to raise awareness of Mehwish and others who share her fate, as well as funds to find a new home for the family, said: “The family are frightened for the future but are choosing to pursue justice whatever the cost. They are hoping that Christians in the west and wider will help support their cause they are frightened about the torture and the rape that their young daughter is undergoing. Nagma the mother of Mehwish has also expressed a desire for a pace of safety for her family [sic]. The shooting incident has caused great anxiety and trauma and they need a place to reassess their future while they recuperate.”
Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the BPCA, said it is estimated that 700 Christian girls are kidnapped raped and forced into Islamic marriage every year in Pakistan.
“That figure is said to be extremely conservative by Christian NGO’s and we continue to assert that many cases are unreported. People in the west express great consternation that little is done to seek justice for kidnapped daughters. Well here we see the result of taking action against the perpetrators – a father has been murdered.
“So many factors have to be taken into account during such incidents and I commend families who strive for justice, but equally I understand why so many choose to do nothing bearing the pain to save what is left of their families. Usually it will be the sons that are threatened but in this case the absence of sons meant the rapists could kill the father leaving the family without a patriarch and reciprocally without a voice.”